A universal Poet

The first Indian epic ‘Ramayan’ was authored by Valmiki, an ex-dacoit who on saintly advice, meditated for many years. After it, he once found a hunter taking an aim on a pair of mating birds in a forest. Killing mating birds was prohibited. Instinctively Valmiki shouted “No, hunter!” (Ma nishada!). He himself was astonished because it was Sanskrit (Dev bhasha or God’s language) neither known to him nor meant for commoners. The epic is in Sanskrit. A divine hand is popularly associated with it. Another great poet was Kallidas of Ujjain (MP). A miracle helped him. He was a fool but handsome. A wise princess married him by mistake and on the night of the marriage, she found out his depth and showed him the way to the door. The word Camel is “Ushtra” in Sanskrit and despite efforts, he said Uttra (It is Pali or Prakrit or degenerated Sanskrit which was used by Buddha to reach ordinary people) before her. Humiliated he too meditated in a forest. Goddess Saraswati (of learning) blessed him. He composed Shakuntala, Kumar Sambhab, Meghdoot etc. Robi (Nickname) or Rabindranath was a born poet. His affinity for poetry in his own words (Chhinnapatra or torn leaf), “Then probably I was Rathi’s (eldest son)age, poetry was betrothed to me…falsification is possible in human life with or without one’s knowledge but I never did it in poetry-she alone sheltered all the deep truths of my life.” He was god gifted thus poetry was in his blood. Pachanan Thakur would bring fruits from across the river Ganga (Howrah-Hooghly) to sell them in the British part of Kolkata (Chowringhee or JL Nehru road). One fine morning, a British customer offered him land to grow and supply the fruits fresh to buyers. He readily agreed and began his upward journey in business. Tagore is British version of Thakur (Brahmin) like Calcutta and Kolkata. Panchanan’s son Dwarka became a shipping magnate. His lavish lifestyle earned him the prefix Prince from the west. He would pass many days at London. He in fact was deep in Baboo culture decadent yet contemporary at British India capital. It meant 3 Ws (Wine Women and Wealth). His wife hated it and so kept her family away from him. Her son Debendra was called Maharshi (great sage) who joined Brahmo movement of Keshub Sen. Brahmo is a synthesis of Vedic teachings and Roman Catholic Christanity brought by the British. Their prayer halls resemble churches and there is no idolatry. Robi was Mahashi’s youngest son (1861) who was born a Brahmo. Ridiculing fanatism, he in his Swadhin Shiksha (free education) wrote “A goat’s god is a huge he goat capable of taking on his adversaries”. He, like his father was well conversant with the Vedas, the Upanishads etc, which he discussed together in Uttarakhand hill stations like Almora, Ranikhet etc. Once Maharshi came down from there to Kolkata during 1857 Sepoy Mutiny or First War of Independence on horseback and went on record that they did not come across the mutiny on the route- it was sporadic otherwise North India experienced maximum bloodshed during the uprising. Robi was the eighth issue of his parents. Same is considered to be auspicious because Lord Krishna who escaped death after being born in Mathura (UP) by King Kansa’s sepoys (like King Herod’s) was the eighth issue. Bengali language was elevated sky high by Tagore, Bankim, Sarat etc. He was a part of renaissance (from mid 19th to early 20th). Despite one tragedy after another, a communal partition taking away 80 pc of land and crippling the people, the language alone survived. It while retaining the original tribal touch (WB & eastern Odisha) surpassed the sweet Maithili which is the mother. Its international status has much to do with Tagore. Jealous of his ‘Silver spoon in the mouth’ background many locals would ridicule his poems.  He addressed the Divine and the evil critics made it appear as lady love, girlfriend or newly acquired wife. As a Brahmo, he had nothing to do with gods and goddesses (or deities) so all the poems never figured them. The hundred and odd making Gitanjali song offering were translated in English by him with CF Andrews. It was appreciated by English poet Yeats and finally made him the first Nobel laureate in Asia. It is said that when he alighted on return at Howrah Rail Station, people took away the horses from Tagore’s decorated carriage and pulled it themselves. The critics turned into crazy admirers. The poet in his sonnet” Mother Bengal” wrote “Mother, you did not allow your Seven Crores to grow up as humans instead maintained them as Bengalis.” As Tagore house (Thakur bari) the family of famous people did not take him seriously. None wrote poems. His ICS brother mentioned on his scribbles in the notebook “If Robi is a poet, cockroach is a bird”. They decided to send him to East Bengal for looking after the vast Tagore estate. However the splendid Nature there overwhelmed him. He married Mrinalini, his manager’s daughter outside aristocracy. She was an acknowledged cook. An epidemic took her away along with most of the children (along with favorite son Shami) since then (1903) he began moving to Bolpur(WB). His Kothi (building) at Shilaidah (Bangladesh) is now Tagore museum with his hookah, specs, pen, slippers and memories. Modi government handed over funds to Sheikh Hasina to do it, stop Ichamoti river erosion and develop the place. It is an international tourist destination. Jana Gana Mana is our national anthem. Tagore denied that it was written to welcome the visiting Prince of Wales (1911 shifting of capital Delhi). Also some diehards objected to mention of Sindh which went to Pakistan. In a democracy mouths are not gagged. Many years later(1971)as five regular divisions of Khan Sena (Pak army) devastated the eastern part with genocide, Free Bengal Radio (Swadhin Bengal Betar) broadcast 24/7 “My golden Bengal I love you” (Amar sonar bangle ami tomai bhalo basi) by Tagore. On liberation it became the national anthem. Relevantly it may be mentioned that Indira Gandhi studied at Santiniketan during Tagore’s time. On an empty K.oil can she avoiding knee deep rainwater at Salt Lake in Kolkata Refugee Camp, addressed the Bangla victims “The male members should go back and fight, your family welfare is my subject.” Her Bengali electrified the huge crowd whose sacrifices made Feb 21 as International Language Day. Khan Sena disliked the very mention of Tagore but the people celebrated in his name. Same day there was a bee line towards Jessore border. Mukti Bahini was formed-a pair of lungi, four annas daily, rubber (car tyre) chappal pair(if available)and the final blitz by Indian Army captured the tormenters lock stock and barrel. Recently Dhaka requested to declare Marc 25 as Genocide Day, when 50,000 people were killed. On one hand Khan Sena was ordered to obliterate Tagore but on the other, pen is mightier than sword. On March 26 Independence Day there, it was Tagore all the way. In 1935 (6 years before his departure for heavenly abode) by then the birthday boy was an international celebrity, Tagore recorded his feelings about his birthday in a poem titled Baisakh 25. From boyhood till date, the celebration is a string of various Rabindranaths. The beginning was within the Thakur Bari compound with restrictions and guardians around. The environment changed from a small circle to outside arena resulting in his transformation. Finally he bestows to his admirers gathered on the occasion his own image of maintaining it while admitting that it would be vain to leave the same to eternity. Tagore lived for 8 decades. He underwent prostrate surgery (1941) reportedly against Dr.Bidhan Roy’s (famous doctor& CM WB) advice considering his old age. The poet did not recover from weakness and stayed at Thakurbari till end. Even today some critics find Tagore songs monotonous. During public functions they display their irritability. His poems are so beautifully worded that not even a word can be changed for the better. Mostly the poems have become songs at one stage or another. The tunes are varied.  He was adept at classical Hindustani music. He also picked up western tunes with attending orchestra at London and Europe. Folk songs, Baul etc were within his reach. Altogether the criticism is unjustified and empty. He himself was an institution. He played with children and interacted with the world’s greatest people as well. He refused knighthood (Sir) citing General O’ Dyer’s Jallianwala Bagh brutality. He took to the roads to annul Lord Curzon’s division of Bengal. At Santiniketan he addressed Gandhi as Mahatma (noble soul) which is so well known. Gandhi called him Gurudev (teacher) like many there. The Ekla chalo (Go alone) personality’s last poem in Gitanjali (Bengali) dated 1911 mentions that his desire is to admit on the day of departure about his life’s experiences being unparalleled. What he saw and what he received had no comparison. The ‘One’ who cannot be touched appeared in all forms physically before him. The ancient Sankaracharya a few millennia before enunciated that one is the Creator followed by two i.e. His creation. Tagore found it in his lifetime. To the global villagers Tagore’s birthday is a red letter day in the calendar.

By: P. Ganguly

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